I have had sardines more than I would care to recall lately and not the canned-cooked-to-smithereens kind, but the, how-much-did-I-just-pay-for-that-fishy-experience-kind. Sardines have been a hot item this summer on hip restaurant menus, but I have found them to be really “fishy” and I don’t consider myself any less of a RealFoodie for saying so. This can’t be the way sardines are supposed to taste. Can it? (sardine pun)
I am intrigued by these little creatures of the sea and mostly because I hear they possess all of the great health benefits of fish, like really high omega threes and protein with a fraction of the mercury of larger oily fish, not to mention that they are easy on the dollar.
How hard can it be to make these guys at home and will they taste fishy?
Buy really fresh sardines. (We are lucky in California to have fresh Monterey Bay sardines) Look’em in the eye. Are they clear? Ask your fish monger to press on them. Do they bounce back quickly or stay sunken in? Have they been scaled? I prefer to scale them myself (just run fingers on little fish bodies from tail to head under cold water… the scales slide right off – you may also use the back of a small knife). Fish has a very short shelf life after death. My theory is that less handling = fresher fish. People are warm blooded and we transfer heat to these tiny little guys, speeding up the putrefaction process. Again, just my theory. I am no fishmonger.
I’m gonna gut you like a fish! I now know what that feels like. Gutting a fish for the first time can be messy and a little sad, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Kinda like tax evasion. (Joke everyone. Just relax)
Im convinced that sardines taste fishy because they are old and/or people don’t clean/rinse them thoroughly. They are bloody little creatures and fish blood tastes, well, fishy so I like to run their little butterflied body under some more cool water to clean them out. European Sardinists are spitting on this post and saying, “we throw ze sardines on ze grill and eat zem whole.” Well, good for you Pierre, this here is the USA and we don’t like to look our food in the eye, not to mention chew up their heads. (crawfish don’t count) dramatization
I can honestly say that I wasn’t a true cook until I ran my fingers down the slit cavity of a little sardine and completed the heinous act by snapping the teensy spine between my fingers, not to mention ripping it out. Muahahahaha! Did I mention cutting the little head off? If there is fish Karma, I’m screwed.
Click here for a how-to site on cleaning sardines. I now see that I will have to create a video because I am NOT satisfied with what is out there, but this link will do in a sardine gutting pinch.
Gutted, Cleaned and Fileted, what now?
There are many ways to honor these little sparkly fish. I am a fan of simply lightly salting them and pan frying them skin side down (dredged in flour or nude) in a little chili peppered olive oil for a 3 minutes or so and then flipping them over for another minute or so, but here are some recipes that look tasty:
• Pasta with Sardines: Pasta con le Sarde – Mario Batali
NOTE: My method of prepping and cooking sardines resulted in lovely tasting little fish. The flesh of the sardine is like that of a miniature trout with slightly deeper flavor and NO fishiness! Enjoy.
HOW DO YOU SARDINE?